The Arthritis and Bone Density Relationship

Arthritis and bone density degradation have a relationship. When pain is sensed in a joint your body can limit loading on bone in that given area.

It is important to understand arthritis and bone density and how they relate to each other.

It is important to understand arthritis and bone density and how they relate to each other.

There is often a vicious cycle of deconditioning associated with aging. It starts with pain in joints, which limits the ability for muscles to contract to their full potential. When muscles cannot engage, they shrink, diminishing the demands placed on the organs that supply nutrients to muscle. Also as muscles begin to shrink, less impact level forces are put through bone, thereby giving way to the loss of bone mass density.

Arthritis, surgeries, and injury of the knee joints are all associated with long-lasting inability to fully activate the quadriceps muscle. This limitation is called, arthrogenic muscle inhibition (AMI). In recent years, a look towards central nervous system mechanisms responsible for engaging muscles has moved to the forefront of research discussion. Simply put, when pain is experienced in bone or in joints, the body does not want a powerful muscle loading that particular joint.

AMI begins to engage as a result in the discharge of sensory receptors based on swelling, joint instability, and inflammation. When examining the proper modality to treat AMI, some philosophical questions come into play with therapists. Some would choose to treat the inflammation, then reengage the muscle which can improve biomechanics, others would choose to attempt a change in biomechanics first, then greater engagement can occur. Reducing inflammation is not necessarily done through pharmaceuticals, as ice pack therapy can provide similar anti-inflammatory properties before use of muscles that can not otherwise be effectively used. The following modalities/therapies can be used to address AMI before pharmaceutical intervention:

1. Cold therapy – Using cold packs around joints that are inflamed can reduce the inflammation thereby limiting AMI for a short period of time. This can give time for engagement of the surrounding muscles of the joint, which can alter/improve the biomechanics of the joint therefore accelerate healing and reduce further potential inflammation.

2. Muscle Activation Therapy, or Trigger Point therapy – These therapy modalities are rather new, however very promising. Tendon insertion points on bone are contacted and massaged, giving way to a different type of neuromuscular messaging. Once this is done, the muscle in question becomes more active for a brief period of time. If that particular muscle is then used, the possibility of a rapid reduction in inflammation exists because of improvements in biomechanics.

3. Destabilizing joints – This can be done by using bands, or whole body vibration platforms. The compromised joint is destabilized under a nominal amount of load, thereby engaging the stabilizing neuromuscular patterns. Once the stability of the joint improves, changes in biomechanics can result in a decrease of irritation thereby a decrease in inflammation.


Written by OI contributor Bill Cunningham

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